Haiti’s Protests: A Continued Sequence of Frustration

By Sabine Tessono

    Over the past few weeks, the topic of voter fraud and government corruption has come into question in several nations. From the protests in Venezuela, to the controversy in the Nigerian elections, to even outcries in the United States, citizen dissatisfaction and government ignorance has led to an increase in outright dissent. Despite these various political crises, most neglect to understand that these violent protests stem from underlying, complex issues that result from precarious regimes. In this blog post, we will examine the Haitian protests that have erupted in the past few weeks and attempt to understand the reason behind these outbursts.

    Factors such as poor infrastructure, increasing environmental and economic problems, and several natural disasters have resulted in precarious fiscal and social conditions in Haiti. An inability to rebuild a stable market, along with continued reliance on foreign aid, has also further weakened the country’s ability to develop a relatively strong economic sector, leading to starvation, homelessness, and violence throughout major cities. Yet, perhaps the most consistent problem that has plagued Haiti has been rampant government corruption. Throughout the centuries, many leaders have risen out of turbulent uprisings in the island’s history and have taken advantage of the general dissatisfaction and lack of cohesion in Haiti’s population to seize power for themselves. While some may argue that this sudden change in authority may allow for both the population and the state to address their grievances and enact change, several heads of state have used these opportunities to embezzle funds and foreign monetary aid meant for rebuilding infrastructure and creating social and economic programs for citizens,--the most notable examples being the notorious Francois and Jean Claude Duvalier.   

    Although, citizens have expressed their frustration with the inefficiency and duplicity of government officials through various elections, protests, and general complaints, it appears that with the rise of President Jovenel Moise, another example of the Haitian government’s duplicity in deceiving its citizens has risen to the surface. According to a Senate report conducted in 2017, funds that Venezuela gave to Haiti in order to rebuild bridges and various buildings (as a part of the Petrocaribe oil alliance) damaged in the 2010 earthquake have gone completely missing, leaving many of the promised government projects remarkably unfinished. Even more damning is the apparent link the report made to Moise and these various embezzlements, claiming that even “before he was president, his private company received funds to build a road that never materialized.”

    The missing funds, along with various government debts and Moise’s refusal to respond, has led to a simmering anger among the population (the majority of which live on less than 2 dollars a day) that exploded with tens of thousands of protesters on the streets of the capital calling for the president’s resignation. While many foreign missionaries and outside forces have attempted to provide aid and support during the tumultuous oppositions, the rage has spread so far out of control that “roads are blocked, people are rioting all over the streets, and businesses are being destroyed,” with several people being killed in the process. To make matters worse, President Moise and many other political officials have made incendiary, derogatory comments about the protestors and refused to address the deficit in funds, further inflaming riots throughout Port-au-Prince and in other cities across the island.

    Essentially, the point here is to not justify the violence and further destruction being spread throughout Haiti. Rather, these protests are a product of a continuing cycle of the Haitain people’s dissatisfaction with government corruption and carelessness. While additional foreign aid and continued intervention in Haiti are feeding into the state’s continuous exploitation of the population, the island being left to its own devices results in further chaos and turmoil. In any case, both the president and the population must acknowledge the repetitive issues that constantly plague the wellbeing of Haiti and must come to some form of compromise and accountability to escape complete and total internal collapse.